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~ A Resolution for the Kingdom of God ~

Many of us have several children. Those that do may experience how their level of content and peace is predicated on the child who is the least content and peaceful. The brother of the prodigal son in one of Jesus’ parables could not relate to his father’s attention to his wayward brother, not having children of his own. Unless you are a shepherd, you probably cannot relate to the joy of finding one lost sheep that was no more special than the other ninety-nine left securely behind.

Jesus told many stories of the love of parents or caretakers for the least, most wayward of those under their care. During His physical time on earth Jesus was most attentive to the outcasts of society. This attention began before He could talk or walk. At His birth, the heavenly array of angels did not appear to the Roman governing authorities or the priests of the Jewish people, but rather to the poor shepherds who were so despised that, by law, they were not permitted to testify in any court litigation because their word was considered of no value.

Matthew records in chapter 25 of his gospel rendition the issues which Jesus will hold as “litmus tests” in the judgment: “For when I was hungry…thirsty…a stranger…poorly clothed…sick…in prison…Did you tend to my needs?” God does not elevate the status of the poor, rejected and oppressed to a special state of privilege. Our society does that…elevating victims to the status of heroes and righteous people, that sets many scrambling to identify with some victimized group to share in that self-righteous status: “I’m a victim of sexual harassment…of homophobia…of emotional trauma due to symbols of others’ faith publicly displayed that are offensive to me…of what happened to my ancestors three generations ago…and therefore you owe me something, I am morally superior to you, I wear the proud badge of ‘victim’! I am thus entitled and beyond criticism or accountability. You are accountable!”

Our God eloquently and decisively tells us what our “New Year Resolutions” should be: “This is the kind of fasting I have chosen: Loosen the chains of wickedness, untie the straps of the yoke, let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke. Share your food with the hungry, take the poor and homeless into your house, and cover them with clothes when you see them naked. Don’t refuse to help your relatives. Then your light will break through like the dawn, and you will heal quickly. Your righteousness will go ahead of you, and the glory of the Lord will guard you from behind. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer. You will cry for help, and he will say, ‘Here I am!’” (Isaiah 58: 6-9).

The Christ declared, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and all else will be provided to you.” Many of us in our waywardness twist this around to serve our egocentric desires. So many value and pursue the “all else” and thus see “seeking the kingdom of God” as a way to what we desire. That means we value the “all else” above the ultimate treasure of God’s kingdom! What stupidity. Some give money to charities and religious ministries believing God will reward them tenfold. Some give alms to the poor believing God will reward them with abundance. Some visit the sick believing God will send others to them when they are sick. Few visit the prisoners of our nations, since few believe they will need to be visited in prison.

The kingdom of God will not allow itself to be trivialized or abused or used to get the “all else” we really want. When the “all else” doesn’t matter, and what we really want is the kingdom and seek it with all our hearts, souls, and strength, its glory and promises will bathe us. Our response? A great sense of being unworthy of it, but also grateful it is granted in spite of our unworthiness. There will be no rubbing of the hands in glee, saying, “Good, now let’s move onto the good stuff, the ‘all else’ I am really after.”

Suppose every Christian’s New Years resolution is to recommit to the striving toward Christlikeness at whatever the cost…to truly seek first the kingdom of God without any regard to secondary gains. If it happened, our prayers over the past two thousand years, “May your kingdom come, may your will be done, on earth as in heaven” would quickly be fulfilled. The world would be consumed and changed.

It will be, one way or another. And as usual, it will not be a majority movement. As usual, it will fall upon a remnant who truly seek first the kingdom of God. The Christ taught, “Narrow is the way and few find it.”

How about we Christians forget about making resolutions about losing weight, making more “quality” time (whatever that popular term means) with family, eating more vegetables, giving more funds to the church, cutting down on between-meal snacks, or even “giving God an hour of our time every morning” as though that time was ours to give when every breath is a gift from God to us. Seeking Christlikenss and the kingdom of God will keep us busy enough, and reorient ourselves to what life on earth is truly about. Everything else after that “will be added unto you.” Just let us not make that our motivation. And we won’t, if we really understand the message of this Reflection, and more importantly, the message of the Gospel.

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
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